Sunday, April 10, 2016

Phil Vischer at Montreat College in North Carolina

When the line, "And now it's time for 'Silly Songs with Larry,'" was spoken, the students at Montreat College erupted with cheers. Sure, they had laughed and clapped hearing Phil Vischer speak in the voice of Bob the Tomato, Archibald Asparagus, and Pa Grape, but it was the reminder of the songs about hairbrushes, water buffalos, and dancing cucumbers that really got them going. Some of them started singing these songs shortly after they stopped wearing Pampers. Sure, they're simple songs, but as Vischer said, "Simple songs are sticky songs..

Mindy and I were passing through North Carolina when we noticed a tweet announcing that the creator of Veggie Tales was speaking nearby. We were excited to have the opportunity to hear him at a chapel address that was open to the public. The chapel where Vischer spoke has a certain historical significance: among other things, it's where Billy and Ruth Graham were married.

We're longtime fans of Vischer's work. Veggie Tales were among the few Christian kids' entertainments (along with Jungle Jam) that didn't drive us to smash the tape deck or VCR with heavy objects. As a youth pastor, I found I could use Veggie Tales for the edification and amusement of junior high and high school students, and as a writer of children's fiction (the Bill the Warthog series), I've learned much from his work.

Vischer spoke passionately about the need for students to pursue the arts for God's glory, even if it didn't lead to financial gain. Plenty of waiters in New York are there to be actors, waitresses in Nashville are there to be songwriters and valets in Hollywood arethere to be film directors. Christians need to have that same passion for their craft rather than giving up when they don't become successful immediately.

Vischer acknowledged that the Church is God's fundamental instrument for God's work in the world, but he sees himself as an equipper of the Church ("like a pew manufacturer"). He said, "Like Liam Neeson, I have a special set of skills; I'm a computer animator," and he wants to use his skills for God's Kingdom. For instance, a number of churches are using his "What's in the Bible?" series for Sunday School classes.

When Vischer speaks, he is very honest about his personal, professional, and spiritual struggles. That testimony of God's work in his life contributes to the Kingdom as powerfully as his cartoons and his podcasts. Nothing silly about that at all.